USA hosts its Biggest Freshwater Nationals in many years.
Despite COVID and an Easter weekend, the Copper State Freedivers of Arizona, hosted their first Freshwater National event in the Lake Pleasant, Arizona region on April 3.
Close to 90 divers, in 2 divisions: Mens and Mixed took 2643 fish in the 7 hour event. Legal species included Stripers, Shad, and Carp all were unlimited take as the lake is trying to reclaim the water for sports fish. Many fish were donated to the local Large Reptile rehab center, the largest in the Nation – Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary.
9 divers shot over 100 fish;
Top diver in the Nation is Kelston McGuire of Colorado, with 147, that’s a fish every 2.45 minutes for 6+ hours non stop;
Top team shot 264 fish, Fernando Gutierrez and Darvil McBride, from Southern California;
Top Mixed doubles all came from Utah: #1 Shelby & Ryan Peterson, #2 Kenny & Maya Western, #3 Clay Palmer & Mike Kennedy;
Top Women were #1 Shelby Peterson, #2 Maya Western, #3 Mitsuki Hara.
**Thanks to all the great sponsors who keep these events alive**
There are basically two methods for how to aim a speargun, the point and tilt method and the instinctive method. In this article we will take a look at both styles and provide some tips to improve your accuracy.
The point and tilt method – Turbo’s Preference
The point and tilt aiming method is in my opinion the best place to begin with your spearfishing. It gets you into a routine and it’s replicable which allows you to adjust and work out where your gun is shooting. The point and tilt aiming method is where the hunter points the tip of the gun at the target and then brings up the handle of the gun so that the gun is pointing exactly at the target. The hunter uses their vision to align various points on the speargun. These points can include the muzzle, spear, spear notches, rubbers and handle to help aim. These points depend on the speargun style and hunters preference.
For example when using a Rob Allen closed muzzle speargun, align the v created by the back of the tensioned rubbers with the hole in the muzzle. This should provide you with consistent accuracy.
There are slight discrepancies between all guns so a systematic approach to testing the gun in a pool or the shallows is a good approach. A weighted thong (flip flop), piece of foam or even a plastic bag can be used for target practice. Position yourself at different distances and each time make a mental note of what you did and where the spear went. Repeat until you can replicate your shot placement consistently.
The instinctive method – Shrek’s Preference
Turbo – “The instinctive method is like shooting from the hip. The hunter through practice can point the gun at the fish and hit the target. I’ve not been able to do this yet so I stick to the point and tilt method.”
To recognise whether you use the instinctive method think about the last time you shot a good fish. Did you focus on your speargun and sighting down the barrel? or did you focus on a precise spot on the fish, then lift your gun and fire in a connected motion? If you sighted down the barrel you are probably like Turbo and you follow the point and tilt idea. If not there’s good and bad news for the instinctive style shooter. The bad news is that when your accuracy is out, discovering what is wrong can be more difficult than following a more methodical technique. For example; a ‘feel’ shooter will spend more time focusing on the fish rather than watching the flight of the shaft to see if they are shooting high or low. A feel shooter will also have more trouble adjusting to a new handle/style of speargun as they rely on the consistent performance and feel of their regular speargun. The good news for ‘feel’ shooters is that they can shoot fish from lots of different angles and it takes less time to manoeuvre and fire. Read below for further tips to improve accuracy.
Picking out a spot on the fish can greatly improve your chances. Here I have aimed where the Lateral line meets the gill plate. I didn’t quite get it but I got close enough.
Why you may be missing fish
Turbo – A few years ago after upgrading from my little timber gun to a 1.2m Euro I went from being a “dead eye” to not being able to hit the the side of a house and I just couldn’t work it out. I then stumbled across a document written by Rob Allen that explained what can affect the accuracy of a spear gun. Through experimentation Rob found that recoil was a major problem affecting accuracy and that lots of problems stemmed from grip pressure and overpowered rubbers. On a right handed shooter the recoil of the gun tends to send the shaft high and to the right whereas a left handed shooter will shoot high and to the left. Rob found that a soft grip and or overpowered rubbers exacerbated the problem greatly.
Skipper Jamie Lough has been using the same speargun since he started spearfishing and the results speak for themselves. He also has the same gun in different lengths, reducing variables. Here Jamie displays the sought after Sailfin Snapper sporting a clean headshot.
Turbo’s Tips for Improvement
Manufacturers have a formula for keeping their guns accurate. This will consist of rubber diameter, rubber length and spear diameter. Replication is the key to keeping consistency.
Keep your shoulder,elbow and wrist locked out when shooting to prevent recoil. Two hands is becoming popular as well.
Replicate your method so it becomes second nature. The less thinking and the more doing the better. It really does help to get some pool practice in. When you’re method becomes second nature you’re less likely to lose your head when that trophy fish swims within range.
In large schools of fish pick out the one fish.
Pick out a specific spot on that fish to aim at.
Make sure your safety latch is turned off before you dive. There’s nothing worse than getting everything right then having nothing happen when you pull the trigger.
Choose your gun and stand by it. The more you use it the better you will become with it. If you are going to have several lengths of gun then make them the same gun at different lengths.
Try a roller gun. Rollers have less recoil and are extremely accurate. You can read more on roller guns here.
Being able to aim your speargun and shoot accurately is vital to hitting fish cleanly and making good holding shots. To shoot a fish a poorly and have it tear off only to die is a waste of good fish and to be blunt, it’s cruel. It happens to everyone from time to time and is a part of hunting but just like our counterparts on land we too need to hone our skills and become better hunters
If you are new to spearfishing and would like to learn more then visit our getting started page here. You can also check out our book 99 Tips to get better at Spearfishing here
The spearfishing float line setup, it’s safe, simple and effective. Float and flag, float line, speed spike and speargun.
Spearfishing Beginner Set Up
The spearfishing rig line setup has been around for a long time and has always been most spearo’s go to set up. It’s simple, practical and safe however, in recent times the popularity of the rig line setup has wavered for the increasingly popular reel gun. Despite the reel gun resurgence the rig line setup is the best option for the beginner and is still used by expert spearfishermen every day. It is also mandatory in many competitions. This article will look at the setup and how it’s used.
First of all let’s look at the components of the rig line set up. Generally there is a float and flag, rig line, speed spike, and gun. Simple!
Spearfishing float and flag. This float is hard plastic with alpha flag and lead keel. Notice the shark clip and float line with keeper knot for holding strung fish.
This setup consists of the float or buoy with the blue and white dove tailed alpha flag or the diver down flag, a red flag with a white horizontal stripe. The float will have a shark or tuna clip in which the rig line is attached to. The float will be weighted or keeled so that ir rights itself in the swell.
The float and flag ensure you’re visible to boats so you don’t get run over. It also ensures you are visible to your boatie so he can find you when he needs to. Trying to find a diver without a flag and float in swell and wind chop can be extremely difficult particularly in the glare of morning or afternoon sun. Should you get lost at sea the float can be put on the end of the spear and waved in the air to signal the boat. The float also provides a means of flotation if you get tired.
A good float will have points where you can attach other objects like flares, water, a whistle, and reflectors. It should be able to be towed behind the boat without diving under the surface. Floats can either be hard or inflatable but for rockhopping I recommend a small hard float that won’t puncture.
Next is the rig line, 15m-30m of floating rope. This rope needs to float so that it returns to the surface after each dive reducing entaglements with the bottom. The rig line will have a loop spliced on each end. One end attaches to the float while the other is attached to the speed spike.
As with everything these days there is every option under the sun from hardware bought rope to state of the art dyneema cored floating tube. The main thing to remember is that it needs to float, not tangle, and be strong enough to land your fish. I personally use a 15m, 20m and 30m length. All three are different types of rope but all float and are all relatively tangle free. All have loops spliced on each end. I find these three lengths allow me to cover all my diving applications.
The rigline attaches the gun to the buoy preventing the gun from being stolen by large fish that run hard or reef species that hold up in caves. If a large game fish is shot the diver releases the gun and swims up the rig line to the float where the diver plays the fish.
The speed spike attached to the spear gun via a shark clip. I recommend the thicker ones as they are less prone to bending.
The speed spike is a metal bar with two rings welded on the ends and is attached to the rig line and the other is clipped to the gun. The speed spike is used to string onto the rig line. The speed spike is pushed through the eye socket of the dead fish then fed up the line to the float. I tie a knot near the float so the fish don’t slide back down the line.
This keeps the fish away from the diver attracting shark activity away and keeps the diver’s hands free to hunt.
I won’t go into too much detail about guns however to say the gun is usually a simple single or double rubber rail gun with a closed muzzle and a shark clip attached. It’s length should be matched to the local conditions but usually, for shore diving a 1m – 1.2m gun will do the job.
So that’s the set up. It has very few moving parts and that’s the point. Keeping it simple is the key when starting out and often a diver will have no need to change from this setup. It can be very cheap to purchase this set up and it’s worth checking out second hand websites like gumtree or facebook groups to pick up good second hand equipment.
If you are considering buying new stuff I stand by, buying right and buying once. Below are my recommendations and links to our principal sponsor www.spearfishing.com where you can save $20 on all purchases over $200 when you use the code noobspearo at check out.
Recently on the Noob Spearo podcast we were lucky enough to chat with SE QLD legend Tim McDonald. There wouldn’t be an Australian Spearo that doesn’t know of Tim’s exploits in the South East. It seems that if it’s edible and swims in the ocean Tim has shot it, and probably a big one of it. We asked Tim what his favourite hunting technique was. In fact we ask every guest this question. This question is designed to get some practical in water techniques for new spearo’s to improve their spearfishing. Tim didn’t give us just one tip for one fish but gave us an insight into his spearfishing mindset for establishing fish behaviour and how best to target them.
When I listened back to the recording there was so many great quotes that I wrote a few down. The following is a series of quotes taken from Tim’s interview that I feel give a good insight into Tim’s mindset when it comes to spearfishing and how he approaches hunting fish.
1. “I think that what makes a great spearfisherman is learning what hunting technique works for what fish”
2. “I probably put more thought into hunting fish and finding fish than most spearos.”
3. “I’ve got a photographic memory when it comes to spearfishing spots. I could draw you a detailed map of every spot I dive but I also remember what works for certain species and that’s probably what’s helped me hunt some of the fish that don’t often get shot in the area.”
4. “You know what, that worked in this spot and that worked in that spot, Wow I’m going to try that again over here.”
5. “I am the worst person for technical names. I don’t call it aspetto because I don’t necessarily know what aspetto means. I’m guessing that means lying on the bottom. One of the big ones is just lying on the bottom, being there for a long time and lying in the right spot.”
6. “We dive all day. Being turned on and focused thinking about it all day is what works.”
7. “Having the mental strength to hunt really dirty water is something that is key to making a really good spearfisherman.”
8. “If you asked my wife she’d probably tell you I spend too much time thinking about spearfishing.”
9. “That’s most guy’s biggest challenge, they want to shoot it so bad and they can’t hide that. They start waving their gun around, they don’t get their gun in the right position early enough, they don’t keep their eyes down for those brief moments when he’s coming head on. Just those little things make a huge difference.”
10. “My parting tip for guys is to learn how to hunt. If you can learn how to hunt you’ll be a great spearo. For some of them (species) that’s hunting them from the boat and some it’s hunting them in the water.”
Clearly it’s the experimental mindset that Tim has applied to his spearfishing that has helped him to become so proficient. He observes and adapts. He is always thinking about the species and what makes it tick and how he can out smart it. Tim continually learns and adapts to what he observes in the water.
He experiments with new approaches right down to the noise his gloves make underwater. He keeps a record of what he observes. It’s mental a record but it works for him.
I would just like to say thanks to Tim for chatting with us and sharing his wisdom. You can listen to the full interview here.I highly recommend it as it’s jam packed with spearfishing gold from one of Australia’s best.
On Christmas Eve I bought myself a Garmin Descent Mk2 and have been playing with it a little. The various apps you can load and the information it collects are impressive. GPS coordinates, entry and exit points for dives, boat tracks etc. as well as giving you a direct heading to your destination while boating is interesting. No spot is safe now – jump in the water and fire up the Apnea Hunt app and it logs your entry point and info on dives such as heart rate, depth, temp etc. throughout the session. It is an expensive piece of kit though!
Mokohinau Islands aka the Mokes
A couple of weeks ago Rob, Moss and I headed out to the Mokohinau Islands in Robs boat. The Mokes are about 30 NM out and are known for good fish life. We launched earliesh (although not as early as intended … thanks to yours truly) and were just under half way out when we spotted a big splash just to the west of us. The splash then appeared again and we saw a flash of white underside and large gills – it was a manta ray feeding on the surface. Manta rays are not hugely common in New Zealand waters and none of us had seen a manta in NZ before so we quickly geared up while keeping an eye on the ray from a distance. I jumped in and swam toward the ray which then proceeded to come to me and check me out – swimming with a manta ray has been on my bucket list for a while! Moss and Rob also jumped in and we took turns boating. The day on the water was starting well!
As we approached the Mokes we saw a couple of pods of dolphins too. Moss was first in the water and on his first dive stoned a kingfish while I was still gearing up so we dropped that into the chillibin. I couldn’t hit a barn door and managed to stuff up a reasonable snapper while Moss and Rob came back with some good fish.
Next was jumping in on one of the workups that were moving around. The workups were Trevally and Kahawai with some Koheru mixed in. Kingfish were hunting them from below and I saw a couple of small Kingfish pretending they were Kahawai and schooling in with the Trevs.
We dived a couple of other spots and I was still struggling to hit a barn door so I got my eye in on a Trevally then we dropped in at a spot Rob had sold as “almost guaranteed Kingfish”. He was not wrong … I had just got in the water, loaded my gun then turned on “Apnea Hunt” on the new watch when I saw a reasonable Kingfish below me so it was a quick duck dive and shot. Given my poor record of not being able to hit a barn door I was unsure of shot placement so when Rob swam back and asked if I wanted him to put a second shot into the fish I agreed.
Looking back at the info on the Garmin later I can see that I barely got to 4m on that dive – I have included a screenshot of some of the data: depth, time and heartrate. The very first dip in that graph was the Kngfish dive.
After a bit more time in the water we decided to head back. We hoped we might see the manta rays on the way back too so Moss stayed in his togs. We were not disappointed as we spotted another, bigger manta ray in roughly the same place as the ones spotted on the way out. Rob and Moss jumped in while I boated for them (I had spent more time with the manta in the morning). I had turned on the “Boat” app on the watch and set the destination as the boat ramp at Omaha so it tracked our journey, speed etc. It would be easy to use it to give you a direct course to a destination.
More sea life …
Not long after the others were back in the boat and dry Rob and I spotted a spout ahead … We had a Brydes Whale swimming across our path. Brydes whales are resident in the Hauraki Gulf but this was only the second time I had seen one – It was quite a day for large sea life (Rob and Moss also had Bronze Whalers check them out).
I have included a couple of screenshots of the boat track and you can see the top kink in the track where we saw the manta ray and a another deviation in the track where we saw the Brydes Whale (NZ has strict regulations about approaching marine mammals).
I’ve just realised that day was quite a Noob Spearo Podcast day. We ran into Blair Herbert at the ramp on the way in. Rob (NSP:091), Moss (NSP:060) and Blair (NSP:120 -122, 127) have all been guests on the podcast (links to each interview below;).
Good day Shrek! I’m a Noobie to the podcast from South Georgia, USA!! I have thoroughly enjoyed your channel since finding it several months ago! Brilliant, funny and very helpful content!! Keep up the good work!
I agree with Eric……getting left behind is the worst!!! (listen in to the lost at sea segment below)
It’s happened to me on my own boat! I was adrift with my buddy off of Cudjo Key in Florida last year for several hours!! It started out a beautiful day! No current and no wind and no clouds! However that changed in the afternoon. Wind, clouds and current seem to appear out of nowhere. Our boat driver quickly lost sight of us and due to the winds and seas picking up, could not see or hear us!! We were just off the reef which is about 3km from shore and quickly being pulled further out!! We started swimming to a light house structure on the reef with our guns, floats and fish! I knew we would not starve as mother ocean had provided for us that day, but nonetheless it was frightening wondering if we would be able to make it in the current to the lighthouse structure on the reef for safety.
This pic from Craig Seadog illustrates how easy it is to get separated from the boat
After swimming for about two hours and not making much progress, I finally saw a boat heading in our direction. I put the fish stringer on the end of my gun and waved it in the air as high as possible and fortunately they saw us and came to us. Once on board, I was able to call my boat which was about 7 miles from our original location. The day ended well but the pucker factor was real!!!🤣🤣🤣🤣.
I grew up on the water and looking back at that day I realize I made several mistakes.
Number one: I had gotten too comfortable and not prepared from a safety standpoint for getting separated from the boat.
Number two: In hindsight, I had a person on the boat that wasn’t experienced enough to pay attention to wind and current to know which way we would have drifted.
Since that day I have prepped for safety better. I found a company out of Canada that make a personal locator beacon. This is a great little device and you can wear it on your weight belt. There’s no monthly fees and you change the battery every couple of years! Now I keep four of these devices on my boat and every Diver gets one for the day. I’m not sure if this company has services in Africa but it is worth looking into if you could pass it along to Eric! I will be purchasing some of the inflatable floats like this one (aka Safety Sausage) or this Neptonics Safety Signal Inflatable Float you mentioned.
Neptonics Safety Sausage. Neptonics Inflatable Safety Signal Float
Thank you for all of the helpful information on your podcast! I’ve been scuba diving since I was 10 but I have only been free diving for two years, I’m 50 and I can’t believe I’ve been missing this stuff!!